1. Reason #111: What Jerry Sandusky tells us



    [trigger warning: child sexual abuse, rape culture, victim blaming]

    Though Friday night’s verdict prompted cheers outside the courtroom, inside, the mother of Victim 6 did not claim victory.

    “Nobody wins. We’ve all lost,” she said before hugging her son.


    I have a lot of feelings about this case. I don’t know how to properly articulate some of them.

    This case is one of, if not the most, infamous case of child sexual abuse and child rape in my lifetime. It’s a story that is too horrible to believe. But this kind of thing happens every day— maybe not on the same scale, but with horrifying frequency in our world.

    Penn State tells us a lot about rape culture. It tells us a lot about abuse culture. As I’ve said in the past, these things do not happen in a political and cultural vacuum; they happen because the moral and social fabric of an entire society is built in such a way that it can fail people— not just once, but over and over again. It takes a village. There were many times in my life when an adult armed with the right knowledge might have seen through what was happening to me. There were times, later on as a teenager, when I was very direct, but no one did anything. I wrote down that I wanted to kill myself and I showed it to a teacher. I asked for a social worker. I received multiple truancy letters. It takes a village.

    So as I think about this case, and the people who suffered so much for years and years at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, I can only imagine how many times the world failed them. I cannot understand the agony of publicly revealing your story for prime time news pundits to pick apart. I cannot comprehend the frustration and pain involved in taking the witness stand and having your story criticized and attacked.

    I read the grand jury report many months ago. It was terrifying. I had to stop halfway through because I felt myself getting physically ill. But I remember the testimony of the janitor who saw Sandusky abusing a boy— he said that the memory of that haunted and disturbed him more than the years he spent fighting in Vietnam. That is the gravity of what we are dealing with here.

    But despite this desire to call Jerry Sandusky a monster, we have to remember that he is a person, and that people— people whom we think are “good”— can do monstrous things. Jerry Sandusky had many people testify to his “good character”. It takes a village. Joe Paterno let child rape happen, and instead of riots and outrage against him, he had riots in his name. It takes a village. And some of us still refuse to believe that even a priest, a “man of god”, can abuse a boy.

    It takes a village.

    Even now, I am starting to see the jokes about prison rape. It’s a sign of where we still are— we see rape as something that can sometimes be a punishment, instead of as one of the worst possible acts in human existence. We still believe that rape is something that can be doled out to those “deserving” of it, instead of as something that every single person in the world has the right to not have happen to them. We still believe that a person we don’t like deserves to have images of their rape and murder publicly broadcast, and that people who do good things can’t possibly be child rapists or child rapist enablers

    This is the culture we are in— one that has variable beliefs on rape and sexual abuse, many of which contradict one another. It’s not okay to hurt little boys, but what if this case was about 45 counts of rape against women? What if some of those women were promiscuous or had other “deviant” sexuality? What if these boys were men when they were hurt? What if some of these boys, now adults, were convicted criminals? Gay? Transgender? Undocumented? Mentally disabled? Fat? What if they were some combination of all of these? The more “deviant” and “bad” we see a person, the more likely it is that their story is not taken seriously. That we cannot, with 100% certainty, say that Jerry Sandusky in another world would be convicted had his victims not been among one of the most believable, sympathetic groups in our culture— children— says a lot about where we are. And as we know, even little boys have trouble being believed.

    In 90 days, Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced, probably with life in prison. But there are still other Jerry Sanduskys out there, and they have entire villages, entire cities of people behind them, actively ignoring abuse, or subtly covering it up. Some of these people— both the abusers and the abuse enablers— could be our neighbors, our cops, our teachers, or our siblings. There are still Joe Paternos out there, knowingly allowing rape and getting away with it. This is not an aberration in our culture— it is a pattern that is systematically ignored and even encouraged. 

    The end of Jerry Sandusky is not the end of the many millions of other stories out there.

    Perfect commentary on a horrific case. NPR has been triggering the fuck out of me lately with all of the Sandusky coverage. The knowing complicity of so many people combined with the institutional enabling is beyond disturbing. Those poor boys. In a sense, their lives ended with that abuse. What is left for them now? I hope there is a lot of emotional and professional support for them.

    I hope that the attention this story received paves a way for more accountability. I hope people start paying more attention and have the courage to protect the abused. 

  2. tw: discussion of rape and sexual assault



    The conversation above took place on the wall of the facebook group, Questioning Slutwalk, which describes itself as a page focussed on analysing the motives and impacts of the Slutwalk Campaign.  Slutwalk, which originated in Toronto, Canada, is a worldwide civilian-run campaign that targets rape culture and asserts that a person’s dress, occupation, state of intoxication, etc. never makes sex without consent permissible.  Please note that this statement is not exclusive to the sexual assault of women by men — it covers the whole spectrum of genders because the issue here is not the gender of the victim: the bottom line is simply that rape is wrong and that we live in a rape culture that affects everyone regardless of gender.

    However, instead of creating an open dialogue on the topic it claims to be centred on, the administrator and the group members of Questioning Slutwalk only post articles and commentary of an unforgivable misogynist, rape-apologist, and slut shaming ideology.  Questioning Slutwalk has created a rhetoric that (inaccurately) paints the Slutwalk Campaign as a movement that encourages and perpetuates the sexual abuse of men.  

    Group members outright reject the reasoned opinions of others who try to explain the purpose of Slutwalk, proclaiming them to be female supremacists, misandrists, rape apologists, and deniers of male rape by women.  The group members despise women and think little of the notion of female consent, while simultaneously complaining about the oppression of men by women, rape culture as a creation of female supremacists, and the sexual objectification and abuse of men by women.

    Now, I will never deny that men get sexually assaulted and raped by women.  It is a true piece of information and it is horrific.  It is also just as true and horrific a fact as the reality of the sexual assaults and rapes of women by men, or of men by men, or of any other imaginable gender combination.  I will never say that the sexual assault of men is not a huge problem; it is extremely underreported and it is traumatising to the victims. That said, I have a serious issue with the way this group conducts itself.  The administrator states that the page is supposed to be a safe place for male survivors, but the administrator completely disregards the hostility directed at both women and female survivors (genders that are outside of the binary are completely unaddressed).  Male survivors should and need to have a support group, but this is not the group they need.  This group simultaneously accuses the entire female population of being predators and attacks female survivors, viciously stating that they deserve sexual assault because of their actions, dress, etc.

    This is completely unacceptable.

    One cannot claim that the sexual assaults suffered by one specific group is any more traumatic or serious than another’s.  While the scale may vary, rape is still rape, and it is a horrible crime that should never be treated with such disrespect.

    EDIT:  As of this morning, the conversation above has been deleted from Questioning Slutwalk’s page, which, according to Questioning Questioning Slutwalk, is a common occurrence.  Additionally, Chandrapal S Bhasker has blocked Sara and left another charming post.


  3. I know I’ve told this story before, but my abusive ex refused to let me take birth control. I was on the pill until he found them in my purse.

    I went to the Student Health Center—they were completely unhelpful, choosing to lecture me about the importance of safe sex (recommending condoms) instead of actually listening to my problem.

    Then I went to Planned Parenthood. The Nurse Practitioner took one look at my fading bruises and stopped the exam. She called in the doctor. The doctor came in and simply asked me: “Are you ready to leave him?” When I denied that I was being abused, she didn’t argue with me. She just asked me what I needed. I said I need a birth control method that my boyfriend couldn’t detect. She recommended a few options and we decided on Depo.

    When I told her that my boyfriend read my emails and listened to my phone messages and was known to follow me, she suggested to do the Depo injections at off hours when the clinic was normally closed. She made a note in my chart and instructed the front desk never to leave messages for me—instead, she programmed her personal cell phone number into my phone under the name “Nora”. She told me she would call me to schedule my appointments; she wouldn’t leave a message, but I should call her back when I was able to.

    And that was it. No judgment. No lecture. She walked me to the door and told me to call her day or night if I needed anything. That she lived 5 blocks from campus and would come get me. That I wasn’t alone. That she just wanted me to be safe.

    I never called her to come to my rescue. But I have no doubt that she would have come if I had called. She kept me on Depo for a year, giving me those monthly injections in secret, helping me prevent a desperately unwanted pregnancy.

    I cannot thank Planned Parenthood enough for the work they do.

  4. Male survivors of sexual abuse come forward to encourage other men to attend April 25 forum


    Research shows that one in six boys is sexually abused before his 18th birthday. And about 3 percent of men 18 and older — one in 33 — have been raped or experienced an attempted rape.

    “Men don’t talk about it,” says Mouncey, who helps lead the center’s male support group. “They suffer in silence. And we want survivors to know they don’t have to suffer alone.”

    Men who don’t talk are more likely to be depressed, anxious and compulsive; to have troubled relationships, poor self-esteem, body image problems and confusion about their sexuality.

    They’re also more likely to isolate themselves, struggle with anger, break the law or become addicted to alcohol, drugs, work or sex, says Howard Fradkin, a Columbus psychologist who will participate in the forum.

    But he and other experts make clear that men who are sexually abused rarely become abusers.

    “Most male survivors would find it abhorrent to repeat the behavior that was done to them,” says Fradkin, who helped found the international nonprofit organization MaleSurvivor. “It’s a very small number.”

    Also small, says Mouncey, is the percentage of abusers who are caught. The men who hurt Wadleigh and Sweeney never were.

    “Probably a good 85 percent of the folks who have come to us as adults for childhood sexual abuse, their perpetrator was never found out or prosecuted,” she says.

    For many survivors that increases the anger, shame and sense of powerlessness.

    Talking, both counselors say, is the best way to overcome those feelings.

    “A man who speaks his story is able to get support, which is an essential part of healing,” Fradkin says. “As long as a man keeps his story to himself, he’s burdened with an immense amount of shame.

    “When shame is not resolved, men hide, they isolate, they are prone to anxiety, depression and suicidality and are much more impaired in their ability to form healthy intimate relationships.”

    The important thing about “Boys and Men Healing,” is that it shows survivors overcoming their difficulties, healing and finding healthy intimacy and joy.

    “Recovery is absolutely possible and achievable,” Fradkin says.

    He’s proof.

    He’s a survivor, too.

    Read it all at the Plain Dealer here.